Super Furry Animals have, like their contemporaries St Etienne, Stereolab and High Llamas, spent the last decade-and-ahalf electronicising and exploring the sonic possibilities of French movie soundtrack music, Brazilian pop, 60s girl groups and, most of all, the Bacharach-David and Brian Wilson songbooks.
Like those peers, SFA have, in a strange way, been victims of their consistency, rarely putting out anything less than excellent, but failing to produce that one single piece of work that connects with the mainstream public. They’re almost too knowing, too smart, too damn good for their own good.
That said, their major label debut, 2001’s Rings Around The World, critically if not commercially, was a peak of sorts, after which subsequent releases Phantom Power (2003) and Love Kraft (2005) were minor disappointments. Thankfully, Hey Venus! finds the band revitalised by their signing to Rough Trade. Played in a certain sequence (though bizarrely not the actual running order of the album – see Q&A below), Hey Venus! is a parable, or morality tale, about a girl who moves to the city to find love and glory, suffers failed relationships, becomes a TV star then, as her career nosedives, is forced to work in a strip club and has to endure the death of her young child. The outcome of the story is that she emerges a sadder but stronger individual, able to face the future with optimism.
The music takes the listener on a similarly bumpy ride, from glam (Neo-Consumer) and Bowie-esque metal (Into The Night) to poprock (Baby Ate My Eightball), country (Let The Wolves Howl At The Moon) and symphonic soul worthy of the mighty Thom Bell (The Gift…). Throughout, the Furries prove their mastery of numerous pop styles, although whether or not it proves popular remains to be seen.